Rat Poison Causes Marshfield Owl Death

baby owl rat poison
This baby owl was rescued after having fallen from a tree, but then showed signs of being poisoned.

Public Encouraged to Use More Humane Rodent Removal Methods

OnFocus – Last week, Marshfield Ordinance Officer Bob Larsen responded to a call of a baby great horned owl found on the ground. At the advice of the nonprofit rescue Raptor Education Group Inc (REGI), Larsen carefully placed the owl back into the tree. Within an hour, the owl was again on the ground and this time would not stay upright.

This baby owl was rescued after having fallen from a tree, but later showed signs of being poisoned.

The owl was then transferred to REGI, where it sadly passed away. A necropsy revealed that the owl had suffered liver failure and internal bleeding as a result of ingesting rodent poison.

“It is widespread, all over the country and the world,” said Marge Gibson, Founder and Director of REGI. “The problem is that people don’t understand that when they put out rat poison, you are poisoning more than just the rat or mouse. You are poisoning a food source, so by extension you are poisoning birds and other predators. We see a great deal of raptors being poisoned with rodent poisoning.”

Gibson said that rat poison is readily available, with the new types being a “one bite” poison. A rat or mouse has to take just one bite of the poison and their fate is sealed. Unfortunately, what the labels don’t reveal is just how painful and drawn-out their death is after ingesting.

“It might take two weeks for them to die and each day they are getting sicker and sicker,” she explained. “As they die, they are running slower and those are the ones that predators select.”

She said that young owls or other animals that are learning to hunt will focus on this slower prey, and are therefore often the victims of poisoning. In the case of Larsen’s baby owl, it was too young to hunt and its parents probably brought a poisoned mouse to the baby after eating some of it themselves.

“Whole families are being poisoned by one house that is putting out this poison,” said Gibson, adding that there is no antidote for the one-bite poison. “Ironically, by putting out rat poison you end up poisoning their natural predators. People don’t realize that and the manufacturers don’t say that on the box. The box also says it’s fine for your animals to be around the poison…but not really.”

Those seeking to control the rodent population on their property are encouraged to seek alternatives methods to poison. Gibson said that snap traps are more humane, but should be placed inside of a box to prevent other animals and birds from being caught.

“Whenever you use something that’s lethal, just pause for a moment and think what else might be around that could get caught up in it,” she said. “We have to remember that what we do has consequences.”

The problem is not isolated to owls, and also implicates eagles, hawks, bats, and other raptors, as well as a variety of other creatures both wild and domestic.

“Rodent poisoning is used a lot. I think it’s important for people to understand that it’s not just the targeted species that is being killed,” said Gibson. “In other words, you’re going to poison beyond the target. You’re not thinking that someone is going to eat this and then they are going to be poisoned, too. Sometimes a dog will even pick up a mouse that’s dying.”

For more information, visit www.raptoreducationgroup.org.

Marshfield Ordinance Control can be reached via dispatch at 715-387-4394. REGI can be reached at 715-623-4015.

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News Desk
Author: News Desk

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